Compliance with legal and other requirements, such as being a signatory to a convention, is not negotiable and as a result must be a primary focus of all companies.
A focus on legal requirements, however, must not be to the exclusion of other considerations. In an ideal world the legal requirements will match both the risk profile and the expectations of the community but this is not always the case. It should be an aim of all companies, however, to negotiate early for this outcome.
In most cases the basic legal requirements will be articulated in a range of lease, license and permit conditions. It is, however, important that a detailed legal compliance audit be undertaken at the start of a project and periodically thereafter. The important thing is that legal requirements are reflected in set targets that ideally will be set above the minimum compliance level in anticipation of future tightening of requirements and, to meet the expectations of the community. Anticipation of changes to the legal context is a very important part of the planning process.
It is important to maintain a Register of Legal Requirements and to ensure that that the relevance of these changes are assessed and clearly communicated to the management team and other key players. It is also important that operating procedures and other processes be adjusted to accommodate the changes and ensure that the site remains compliant.An example of this would be the introduction of a new requirement to keep a monthly log of inspection and maintenance activities on all bunds and sumps.
This requirement would need to be communicated to the operators, log books distributed, operators trained and, adjustments made to the inspection protocols to ensure that the log books are being completed as required.
Some anticipated legal changes, such as the introduction of National Air Emission Standards may have great financial consequences for the company. In this case the options for compliance need to be assessed with technical specialists prior to the budget cycle so that required future capital works can be funded. In other cases it is a timing issue. The introduction of stringent new Land Clearing Regulations with an anticipated time for approval of 6 months or so, will necessitate early communication with the Geological Exploration People so that they can get their clearing applications in early and not have their programmes disrupted.
In the unfortunate situation that the Company is being prosecuted for a licence breach it will be essential to demonstrate due diligence. A clear document trail will be needed to demonstrate that a functional management is in place and it is also essential that key documents and records can be located. A functional document and records management system is critical. It is also critical that all monitoring and data-management systems are robust.